Everything went according to plan, except when it didn't.
The key piece of information missing from Businessweek's article on how the Romney campaign kept the Paul Ryan VP pick a secret is that they didn't. "It was a scene more fitting for a whodunit mystery than a vice-presidential rollout," the piece begins. Sure, but the killer's name started trending on Twitter hours before Poirot fingered his suspect.
Look, I'm not saying this was a complete fail on the Romney campaign's part, but to pretend that they announced Paul Ryan exactly as they'd said they would — via smartphone app, and then in a joint public appearance — is just silly.
Instead of admitting they botched their plan to obfuscate, the Romney campaign is pushing a Hardy Boys narrative, readily apparent in the Businessweek article.
U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan — determined not to be seen as he began making his way from his Wisconsin home to the Norfolk, Virginia, battleship where he would be named Mitt Romney's running mate — left through the back door of his house on Aug. 10 and crept into the woods that led to his boyhood home, passing his old tree fort as he went.
On the other side, he met an aide who would sneak him to a small airport for a chartered flight that would begin an adventure that he says is still "going from the surreal to the real."
But when Romney aide Beth Myers describes the "cloak-and-dagger tactics they used to pull it off," she neglects to mention that Paul Ryan was identified by Twitter hours before the official announcement. Perhaps more importantly, NBC got the scoop.
But really, what difference does a few hours make?
And yes, in the longrun, it doesn't really matter that Romney's nightmarish VP pick was discovered a little before he was supposed to be announced. What the story underlines, however, is the repeated hubris with which the Romney campaign has dealt with the media — in this case, trying to deliberately fool them, failing, and then saying, "Haha, gotcha!" anyway.
You get the sense that Romney and his handlers don't think he needs the media, as evidenced by his extremely limited contact with reporters during his international tour. (That, and travel press secretary Richard Gortka's charming "Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people.")
They can chalk it up to liberal bias — the lamestream media going after the Republicans again — but that ignores the campaign's failure to engage. They don't grant interviews then snap when reporters get testy. They show NBC-sized balls and think they can delay a report in the age of social media, then act like they're the latest installment of the Bourne series. ("There were never only two.")
And they criticize the media's obsession with Romney's tax returns and Harry Reid's campaign to have them released. This version of events shifts the blame from the campaign's obvious culpability: Romney could make the story go away by, you guessed it, releasing his goddamn tax history.
As long as they continue to hold back, the media will keep digging. Even in a Businessweek story on a supposed victory comes this telling sidenote.
Among the files collected from Ryan were several years of tax returns, Myers said, declining to detail how many. That means Romney had access to more of Ryan's tax records than the public has had to those of the presidential candidate himself. Romney released his 2010 tax return and has promised to provide his 2011 filing when it's available, yet has resisted calls to disclose prior years' information.
The Romney campaign can spin all they want, but transparency goes a long way.
[Image via AP]